Orlando International Airport (MCO IATA) is primary airport serving the Orlando metropolitan area, which is also served by Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB IATA) some 34 mi (55 km) to the north in Sanford. Orlando International Airport is the second-busiest airport in the state of Florida, after Miami International Airport (MIA IATA), and the largest airport serving Central Florida. Alternative airports in Central Florida include Tampa International Airport (TPA IATA) in Tampa, Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne (MLB IATA), Daytona Beach International Airport in Daytona Beach (DAB IATA), and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE IATA) in Clearwater.
The Orlando metropolitan area is the most popular traveler destination in the United States, with over 50 million vacationers and convention-goers each year. As a result, Orlando International Airport serves a large number of destinations nationwide, including almost every large and medium-sized city east of the Mississippi River and several major hubs in the Western United States. International flights are limited, unless flying to Canada or the U.K. International connections are made by flying through an airline's hub or by connecting (or driving about 3½ hours) to Miami International Airport—which ranks second in the U.S. by international passenger traffic and which has extensive connections within the Americas and to Europe.
The airport is southeast of downtown but is conveniently located with respect to the region and its attractions.
The airfield was established in 1942 as Orlando Army Airfield #2, an auxiliary airfield to supplement operations at Orlando Army Air Base (originally Orlando Municipal Airport, now Orlando Executive Airport) during World War II. It was renamed Pinecastle Army Airfield in 1943. After the war, it was transferred to the city of Orlando, but with the advent of the Korean War, the Air Force retook possession in 1951 and named it Pinecastle Air Force Base. In 1959, the base was renamed McCoy Air Force Base in honor of Colonel Michael N. W. McCoy, the commander of the base's B-47 bomber fleet, who was killed in a crash the year prior.
In 1962, with passenger flights to Orlando exceeding what Orlando Herndon Airport (now Orlando Executive) could handle (both in passenger volume and aircraft size), the Air Force agreed to share the McCoy airfield (and its longer runways) with the city of Orlando. Orlando–McCoy Jetport opened in 1964, its terminal a converted missile barn. With the ORL airport code assigned to Orlando Herndon, the new Jetport was given the code MCO, for McCoy. The opening of Walt Disney World in 1971 brought enormously increased traffic, and the civil facilities were greatly expanded in response.
With the end of the Vietnam War, McCoy AFB was among dozens slated for closure. The airfield was transferred back to the city in 1975, and in 1976 the Orlando–McCoy Jetport became Orlando International Airport. The U.S. Navy took over some of the military facilities for a Naval Training Center, which remained active until 1999. Today, the only military presence remaining on the grounds of the old base is an Armed Forces Reserve Center, a Florida Army National Guard armory, and a Navy Exchange retail store serving the area's large number of retired military personnel.
Orlando International's massive main terminal opened in 1981, with the original Jetport terminal going through several subsequent tenants before being demolished in 2006.
Orlando International Airport is a focus city (or minor hub) for Frontier Airlines (serving about 10-12 cities), JetBlue Airways (20-25 cities), & Southwest Airlines (40-45 cities), all of which fly numerous routes to/from Orlando. OIA regularly sees Boeing 747s from Virgin, British Airways, & Lufthansa; however, and despite being one of the first prepared to handle it, there has yet to be an A380 seen on routes to/from MCO.
Frontier Airlines (serving about 10-12 cities), Delta Air Lines (serving about 10-15 cities), JetBlue Airways (20-25 cities), & Southwest Airlines (40-45 cities) use the airport as a focus city and fly numerous routes to/from Orlando. Also, American Airlines has around 10 45—minute flights a day to their Miami hub. Non-stop service is offered to nearly every major city east of the Mississippi and to several major western cities (LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, & Denver). With Orlando's status as a major vacation destination, most airlines fly to Orlando from nearly all of their hubs (and with multiple daily flights from hubs east of the Mississippi River). The busiest domestic routes (Aug 2011-Jul 2012) from Orlando are Atlanta (1.3 million passengers on Delta or Southwest), New York-JFK (700,000 passengers on American, Delta, & JetBlue), Philadelphia, Newark, Detroit, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, Chicago-O'Hare, & Baltimore.
Over a dozen Canadian destinations are served non-stop. Calgary, Montreal, & Toronto are served year-round. Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, London, Moncton, Ottawa, Quebec, Saint John's, & Winnipeg are served seasonally. Toronto-Pearson is the second busiest international route from Orlando, with over 400,000 passengers annually (2011) or an average of over 1,000 passengers daily.
Caribbean & Central America
Destinations in the Caribbean and Central America are: Aruba (Southwest); Cancún, Mexico (JetBlue); Kingston, Jamaica (Carri bean); Marsh Harbour, the Bahamas (United); Mexico City (AeroMexico, Volaris); Montego Bay, Jamaica (JetBlue, Southwest); Monterrey, Mexico (VivaAerobus, seasonally); Nassau, the Bahamas (Bahamasair, JetBlue); Panama City (Copa Airlines); Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (Caribbean); San Jose, Costa Rica (JetBlue); San Salvador, El Salvador (Avianca); & Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (JetBlue). The airport was approved in 2012 to operate flights to Cuba.
To South America, there are daily flights to Rio de Janeiro-Galeão (LATAM), São Paulo-Guarulhos (twice daily on LATAM; seasonally on Whitejets), & Bogota (Avianca, Jet Blue) and seasonal service to Santiago, Chile (LATAM).
Daily flights to Europe are offered by Virgin Atlantic (London-Gatwick & Manchester), British Airways (London-Gatwick), & Lufthansa (Frankfurt). Multiple flights per week are flown to Dublin (Aer Lingus) and Glasgow (Virgin Atlantic, seasonally). Orlando-London (Gatwick) is the busiest international route (and 3rd busiest route overall) for OIA with nearly 700,000 passengers on the route (in 2011). There are over 1 million passengers each year on non-stop Orlando-U.K. routes.
Emirates provides a daily service to Dubai.
Airlines & destinations
Orlando International Airport is sandwiched between two tolled expressways (motorways), with easy access to several major roads crossing the Orlando metro area. The airport is conveniently located within the Orlando metro area and without traffic congestion, it should take no more than 30 minutes to reach most of Orlando and the Kissimmee/Disney World area. Cities & towns on the northern side of the Orlando metro are, such as Sanford, should take no longer than 45 minutes to reach (again, without traffic congestion). The cities and beaches of the Space Coast, Daytona Beach, and Polk County are 45-90 minutes from the airport. Further away, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Gainesville, Vero Beach, & Fort Pierce are 1½-2 hours away.
The main airport terminal and parking structures are surrounded by a circular drive, which has numerous off-ramps (off both the left & right) leading to the various parking structures and to connecting roads. This can be confusing/disorienting for some drivers, especially foreign drivers leaving the airport in rental vehicles and unfamiliar with the area, road system, and the vehicle they are driving. Be especially alert to signage and it is better to circle the terminal than swerve across multiple lanes of traffic and risk having an accident.
The Beachline Expressway (also State Road 528) runs along the northern edge of the airport and runs west to Interstate 4 (the primary north-south artery through the Orlando metropolitan area) and runs east to the beaches of the Space Coast, which includes towns such as Cocoa Beach, Titusville, & Melbourne.
The Central Florida GreeneWay (also State Road 417) forms a half-loop around the eastern side of the Orlando metro area, beginning at Interstate 4 near Kissimmee/Walt Disney World and running north to Interstate 4 near Sanford. It passes a couple miles south of the airport and is reached via Boggy Creek Rd. State Road 417 is the fastest way to reach Kissimmee, Walt Disney World, and Polk County (via I-4). If using S.R. 417 to travel north to eastern suburbs of Orlando or to Sanford or Daytona Beach (via I-4), take the Beachline Expressway east to reach the GreeneWay.
At the airport, you can drop off departing passengers on Level 3, and pick up arriving passengers on the baggage claim level, Level 2.
Public transportation in the Orlando area is provided by Lynx (+1 407-841-5969) bus system. Lynx buses can be found on the Ground Transportation Level (Level 1) of the Main Terminal's "A" side at Commercial Lane spaces A38-A41. Fares are $2/ride with free transfers within 90 minutes. Day passes are $4.50 and a 7-day pass costs $16. Discounted fares for Youth/Elderly requires riders to present a Lynx-issued ID, available only by applying at the Central Station Terminal with a 5-7 day turnaround and therefore not viable for short-term visitors. Routes (known as links) from the airport are:
- Link 11—Downtown Orlando (Map/Schedule; departures every 40 minutes 6AM-midnight M-F, 6AM-10PM Sa, & 6:30AM-9:30PM Su/holidays)
- Link 41—Apopka (Map/Schedule; departures 5:15AM-22:45PM M-Sa & 5:30AM-21:30PM Su/holidays)
- Link 42—International Drive (Map/Schedule; departures every 60 minutes 5:30AM-11:30PM M-Sa, 6:30AM-11PM Su/holidays)
- Link 51—Downtown Orlando (Map/Schedule; departures every 40 minutes 5:30AM-10:30PM M-Sa, 5:15AM-9PM Su/holidays)
- Link 111—Walt Disney World (Map/Schedule; departures every 75 minutes 5AM-midnight daily/holidays)
Almost every medium to high priced hotel in the city offers airport transfers. Additionally, there are several shuttle services options that run from the airport to various points, including Kissimmee, theme parks, University of Central Florida, and the cruise port at Port Canaveral. Approximate rates for shuttle vans range from $18-26 depending on your destination (see OIA website for details on local transport). You may wish to contact your hotel or cruise line (if leaving from Port Canaveral) to inquire about discounts on certain shuttles or possibly free airport transfers.
- Disney's Magical Express, ☎ . Complimentary shuttle and luggage delivery service available only for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, operated by Mears Transportation. Advance reservations are required.
- Mears Transportation, ☎ . Provides shuttle service from Orlando International to many hotels in and around the region, including those in the Disney area that are not served by Magical Express.
- InterPlex Transportation - Orlando, toll-free: . Provides limousine and car services from Orlando International Airport.
Out-of-town shuttles provide service to destinations within about 1-2 hours' drive. These shuttles are prohibited from serving Orange, Seminole, and northern Osceola counties. A full, up-to-date list of these may be found on the OIA website.
Taxi cabs/vans may carry up to 9 passengers/luggage and may be found on the Ground Transportation Level (Level 1) of both the "A" and "B" sides of the Main Terminal. Rates are determined by a taximeter, regardless of the number of passengers, and flat fares are prohibited. Approximate taxi fares from airport to popular destinations may be found in the OIA website. Mears Transportation Group (☎ 888-983-3346) dominates taxi service in Orlando and operates different brands (Yellow Cab Company, Checker Cab Company, and City Cab Company) with identical rates. Taxi Cab companies at the airport include:
- Ace Metro/Luxury Cab, ☎ .
- Diamond Cab Company, ☎ .
- Quick Cab, ☎ .
- Star Taxi, ☎ .
- Town & Country Transport, ☎ .
- Yellow/City Cab, ☎ .
Ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft, may be hailed anywhere in Orlando for drop off at MCO. However, only the high-end ride-hailing services such as Select XL and Uber Black can pick up passengers at MCO at the Express Pickup Tunnel on Level 1 next to the rental car counters, which probably translates to a rate comparable to or higher than the regular taxi services at MCO.
Orlando is the "rental car capital of the world" and, as can be expected, there are many car rental agencies offering a large number and wide range of vehicles for rental. These agencies have desks on the first level of the main terminal, on both A and B sides. Additionally, there are numerous car rental agencies located off-site which provide free airport transfers from their location and may offer lower prices (See OIA website). Rental agencies at the airport are:
- Advantage Rent A Car, ☎ .
- Alamo, toll-free: .
- Avis, toll-free: .
- Budget, toll-free: .
- Dollar Car Rental, ☎ (international), toll-free: .
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car, toll-free: .
- E-Z Rent A Car, toll-free: .
- Hertz Car Rental, toll-free: .
- L and M Car Rental, ☎ .
- National, toll-free: .
- Thrifty, toll-free: .
Beware: Several gas stations near the airport prey on visitors topping off the tanks of rental cars by charging extraordinarily high prices ($2-3/gallon above local prices)! The practice has made national news and local ordinances require all stations to conspicuously display their prices on road-side displays. Nonetheless, there are still many unsuspecting visitors who are shocked to pull up to a gas pump with regular unleaded gas for $6.50/gallon, when stations 2-3 miles away are charging just $3.50!
Orlando International is structured into two components, landside and airside. There is a central landside terminal (one building divided into Terminals "A" and "B"), containing airline counters, baggage claim, rental agencies, numerous shops, and a hotel. This central terminal is connected via trams to four airside terminals, known as Airside 1-4, with the airplane gates. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in both the central terminal and the airsides.
The main terminal consists of one large, rectangular structure which has been divided (by signage, not physically) roughly into thirds across the shorter side into two "terminals"—Terminal A & Terminal B—separated by a central concourse with shops, a food court, and two atriums on the ends where security checkpoints and connections to the airside trams are located. A hotel is located in the East Atrium. Ticketing, shops, security, and airside trams are all found on Level 3 of the main terminal building. The ticketing/check-in counters along each terminal have been assigned zones to make it easier to locate the check-in for your airline. Level 2 is the Baggage Claim level. Level 1 is the Ground Transportation level, where rental car offices are located inside and public buses, airport shuttles, and taxis are accessed outside.
There are large parking garages flanking the north and south sides of the terminal building, signed as "A Garage" and "B Garage" corresponding to the neighboring terminal. These parking structures consist of:
- Levels R1 & R2 — The lowest two levels are for rental vehicle storage, pick-up, and drop-off.
- Levels 1-3 — Mixed short & long-term parking. Covered, except some spaces on level 3.
- Level 4 — Mixed short & long-term parking on top of parking structures (exposed to weather). Crossover bridge atop terminal building between "A Garage" & "B Garage" and access to "Terminal Top" parking.
To access the main terminal from the "A Garage" or "B Garage", take the elevator to the lowest level, the Pedestrian Tunnel, walk through the tunnel (or ride the moving sidewalk), then take the long escalators to Levels 2 or 3 or use the elevators to access all levels of the main terminal building.
While most people search for parking spaces on the lower levels of the A or B Garage, continue up to Level 4 to access the Terminal Top parking garage (Levels 4-10), which permits both short & long-term parking. The benefit of driving up to these levels is that the Terminal Top parking structure is located directly above the main terminal building and the elevators in this parking structure travel directly down to ticketing & baggage claim areas of the main terminal building.
Terminal A is on the northern side of the building and consists of ticketing zones A, B, C, & D as well as the parking garage and pick-up/drop-off ramp on the northern side of the main terminal building. While exceptions may occur, the airlines associated with Terminal A generally will use Airsides 1 & 2—corresponding to Gates 1-29 & 100-129 respectively—and Baggage Claim carousels 1-16.
Terminal B is on the southern side of the building and consists of ticketing zones E, F, G, & H as well as the parking garage and pick-up/drop-off ramp on the northern side of the main terminal building. While exceptions may occur, the airlines associated with Terminal B generally will use Airsides 3 & 4—corresponding to Gates 30-59 & 60-99 respectively—and Baggage Claim carousels 20-32.
The four Airside terminals are connected to the main landside terminal by an automated tram system called the Automated People Mover (APM).
Security screening is performed in the central landside terminal before taking the tram to the airsides and, as in all U.S. airports, only ticketed passengers are allowed past security. Security lines can become extremely long (1 hr), especially during the summer tourist season and near holidays. Combined with long check-in lines, it is advisable to arrive 2-3 hours before your scheduled departure.
Eat and drink
If you're departing from the airport and have plenty of time, you may want to strongly consider grabbing a meal before going through security. It's risky if you're on a tight schedule, but the landside main terminal has, by far, the widest variety of restaurants. There's plenty of food available airside, of course, but options are a bit more limited. Take a peek at the security lines first, though; if they're long, better get in line and then see if you have time to eat airside.
If you're flying into the airport, the options in the landside main terminal are the most convenient, because you can pick up your luggage on level 2, then return to level 3 to eat.
All of the restaurants in the landside main terminal are on the mall-like Level 3, where security and the ticket agents are. There's a good-sized food court right smack in the middle of the level, easily accessible from both A and B sides and equidistant between the two security checkpoints at the east and west ends. Chik-fil-A, McDonald's, Nathan's Hot Dogs, Panda Express, Quiznos, and Sbarro are the main options, along with Carvel and Krispy Kreme for sweets. If you have more time and want something more substantial, Chili's (Mexican-American), Macaroni Grill (Italian-American), and Fox Sports Bar have locations on the west side of the landside main terminal (to Airside 1 & 3, Gates 1-59).
The Hyatt Regency hotel also has two full-service restaurants, located within the hotel on the east side of the landside main terminal (to Airside 2 & 4, Gates 60-129):
- Hemisphere Steak & Seafood (Hyatt Regency, 9th Floor). Breakfast: M-F 6:30AM-11AM, Sa Su 6:30AM-noon; Dinner: M-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. This upscale steakhouse has a great view of the airport's runways, located as it is at the very top of the main terminal. To an extent, you're paying for the view as much as for the food, but the cuisine matches the quality of the scenery. With its subdued atmosphere and small size, it can even be the setting for a relaxing, romantic dinner. entrees $24-40.
- McCoy's Bar and Grill (Hyatt Regency, 4th Floor). Daily 11AM-12:30AM. Located on the Hyatt's lobby level, McCoy's is a bit bigger, a bit livelier, and a bit less expensive than Hemisphere. The focus is on fresh local ingredients, resulting in a fairly eclectic menu that still manages to include several classic favorites. A very good sushi bar is available 4PM-11PM. Entrees $11-32.
The options in each airside terminal are much more limited, and vary widely among them. Each has one full-service sit-down restaurant:
- Airside 1 (Gates 1-29): On The Border Mexican Grill and Cantina
- Airside 2 (Gates 100-129): Kafe Kalik (Caribbean)
- Airside 3 (Gates 30-59): Ruby Tuesday (American)
- Airside 4 (Gates 60-99): Outback Steakhouse
In addition, each airside terminal has one or two fast food restaurants, a bakery, a coffee shop, a dessert shop, and a convenience store, though the exact vendors vary from terminal to terminal.
Just in case you couldn't find that perfect souvenir before your last day in Florida, Orlando International has you covered. Level 3 of the main (landside) terminal is essentially a small shopping mall, complete with food court. Most notably, there's a Universal Orlando gift shop, and not one but two Disney shops. The other retailers are about what you'd find in just about any mall back home. One shop you might not have at home is Del Sol, where the stock in trade is apparel (mainly T-shirts, but also flip-flops and sunglasses) that changes color in sunlight; the effect is fun to see even if you don't buy anything.
The airside terminals vary greatly in their retail offerings. The newer ones, 2 and 4 (gates 60–129), have a wide variety of shops that go well beyond the usual books, magazines, and trinkets. The older ones, 1 and 3 (gates 1-59), have much more limited shopping options.
Airside Terminals 1 and 4, the only terminals with customs facilities, have duty-free shops.
Aircraft spotting is permitted, however spotters must first visit the Public Affairs office (located on the 3rd level of the Main Terminal to the left of the security checkpoint for gates 60-129) to complete a "use of facilities" form and present a valid photo ID. Level 9 of the terminal top parking garage provides panoramic views of most of the airport as well as great views of downtown Orlando.
MCO offers free WiFi throughout the airport. If your device runs out of juice, there are charging stations located in each wing of the airside terminals. If you don't have a device at all, you can also make use of Internet kiosks available in both the landside and airside terminals. Cellular and PCS wireless service is available from all the major providers.
- Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, 9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel is inside the main (landside) terminal's East Hall (to Airside 2 & 4, Gates 60-129), between the A-Side and the B-Side. The hotel and its restaurants are outside the secured area of the airport and so may be accessed by both travelers and non-travelers.
- Cape Canaveral
- Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex
- Daytona Beach